It was a proud moment for Canberra's Rolfe family when Zach Rolfe this week received the Royal Humane Society's highest bravery award for rescuing two tourists from a flood-swollen river in the Northern Territory more than two years ago.
Constable Rolfe, who was only one week into his job with the Northern Territory police at the time of the rescues in December 2016, received the 2018 Clarke Medal from Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove at Government House in Canberra on Thursday.
Constable Rolfe is the son of well-known Canberra businesspeople and philanthropists Debbie and Richard Rolfe.
The Royal Humane Society of Australasia presents the Clarke Medal for the most outstanding case of bravery considered during the year.
In December 2016, Constable Rolfe swam across a raging river near Alice Springs multiple times to rescue the two tourists, a woman from Hong Kong and a man from Taiwan.
The Chinese ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, was at the Government House presentation to personally thank Constable Rolfe and present him with a book about the Great Wall.
Mr Rolfe said the Chinese Embassy had emailed a special note of congratulations to his son that, translated, read: "The merits of saving one person's life, excells building a seven-storey pagoda".
"It was fantastic attending the event because it meant not only Debbie and I were able to see it, but also friends and family, including three grandparents," Mr Rolfe said.
Mr Rolfe said the rescue had had further ramifications in that it had led to warning signs about not crossing flood-affected rivers in the Northern Territory also being written in Chinese to reach the many tourists who visited.
The tourists rescued by Constable Rolfe had been driving in a hire car that was swept away in floods west of Alice Springs.
When he, his colleague and a member of the public first rescued the man, who was clinging to a tree, the woman was nowhere to be seen.
Constable Rolfe then volunteered to cross the river to find the woman, walking downstream for five kilometres in only his underwear. He eventually found her lying on an island where the river forked in two.
His courageous deeds not only saved two lives but resulted in him being presented with a consignment of Tradies undies, the brand he was wearing at the time of the rescue.
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